One Picture, Two Stories

bootsonwiresLook at the picture to the right.

What does this represent for you? What do you think about when you look at it? What story does it tell you?

In the workshops we facilitate for clients, we often use images to help people come together around different issues. Last week in a workshop I was facilitating, two women shared their stories about this particular image.

For one, it held a story of youth, of gangs and of the potential for violence.

The second woman originally came from a part of the world where electricity cables were often falling or damaged and there were many deaths from electrocution. For her this picture told a story of safety – the boots over the wire were potentially a protection from dangerous currents and from possible death! She said that, without the boots, the image would have been far more frightening for her.

By sharing their stories, these two women moved the group into a rich conversation about how the same experience can hold very different meaning for different people. Something we all know, but sometimes forget in our day-to-day dealings with others.

I can’t really understand how you experience what is happening or the meaning you make of it unless I ask you. Unless I take the time to listen deeply to your story and appreciate how you see the world and your place in it.

Reality is created in the moment, and there are multiple realities
(Sue Annis Hammond,  The Thin Book of Appreciative Inquiry)

Note: The image here is one card from a beautiful set called Picture This.  These cards are published by Innovative Resources, which is one of the best sources we know for obtaining a wide range of excellent strength-focused resources.


  1. Hi Sue,
    This is such a challenging topic…it’s so clear to me that interpretations, and our responses to people/images/situations because of those interpretations drive much of what we experience at any given moment. So how do we change the deeply held associations that color our views and affect our behavior in ways that don’t serve us any longer?

    That’s a tough battleship to turn…

    • Hi Jeb – thank you for your comment. For me I think some of the keys to changing those ‘deeply held assocations’ is to be open to listening deeply to others’ stories, be fully present with them when they do, and also let go of those ego-driven gremlins that make us want to be ‘right’ or constantly affirm only our own view of the world. And you are so right about that being a tough battleship to turn! :)

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